More than 100 Clarks Shoes workers are considering a strike because the company threatened to fire them and re-hire them based on the policy.

The union says it is another instance of a debated practice that has become progressively widespread. Clarks has been at a loss for many years and was recently acquired by a Hong Kong private equity firm. A company spokesperson confirmed that it is negotiating employment conditions with employees.

109 out of 145 Clarks Somerset Warehouse employees have been offered contracts that are better than contracts offered to recent hires. Employees are being asked to accept a new contract that would reduce pay by around 15%, along with fewer holidays, a not in place sickness policy, and decreased breaks.

This week, Clarks will submit official documents to begin a 45-day consultation, after which it can fire all employees and offer to re-employ them under a new contract. On behalf of employees, the trade union has said all options are being well-thought-out to fight the move, which could include strike action.

A Clarks spokesperson said: “Clarks is currently consulting with unions and employees at our Westway Distribution Centre in Street, Somerset on proposed changes to employment terms and conditions for all operatives. As we are in a period of consultation, we are unable to comment any further at this time.”

The BBC recognizes that Clarks still hopes to find a negotiated solution that does not involve firing and rehiring workers. Under new employment conditions, the wages of workers with new contracts may increase.

Clarks was having been hit hard even before the pandemic and had been suffering in lockdown. It is projected to report a substantial loss when it files its next set of annual accounts.

The workers most adversely impacted by these changes are those who have been employees for decades, sticking with the company through thick and thin, stepping up in the last year during the challenging pandemic period,” said John Paul McHugh, Assistant General Secretary from Community. “Fire-and-rehire is no way to thank your employees or your customers. We ask Clarks to call off the diminishing of terms and conditions“.

Source: BBC News